Does the Prime Directive Really Matter?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Emperor Norton, Apr 23, 2012.

  1. Emperor Norton

    Emperor Norton Captain Captain

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    Does the Prime Directive Really Matter? Would it be so truly horrible and detrimental to a society to interact with it pre-warp?
     
  2. awiltz2

    awiltz2 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    Within the series, the Prime Directive seems to be more of a general philosophy (that should be followed to the best one one's ability) than a strict rule (like they say it is).

    As people mentioned in other threads, the Prime Directive was more of a plot device than anything, meant to complicate a plot and place more restriction on Kirk or Picard and Co., thereby creating drama (ie. "How can we save Wesley?" and so on).

    As to whether or not it matters ... it absolutely matters :cool::

    Imagine what would happen if American troops in the 1800s were given phaser technology. A single person could allegedly defeat a whole army (remember wide-angle capabilities in phasers even in TOS). In the wrong hands, this could result in an ENORMOUS in-balance of power.

    There are infinite possibilities when it comes to tampering with the proper history of a civilization.
     
  3. Neutral Zone

    Neutral Zone Captain Captain

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    The PD is a usful tool in the plots of the various series of ST. And I would say 'Yes', it is important to the whole world of ST.

    In some ways we already have some form of PD's in this world, just look at the the Geneva Convention, NATO (with the idea of enforcing world peace etc.
     
  4. Emperor Norton

    Emperor Norton Captain Captain

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    But, cultures interact with each other all the time. The Europeans got many of their advancements from the Crusades and the Arabs, which they interacted with, which helped boost them to the Renaissance. Colonial powers interacted with primitives all the time; that's bad because it was done through conquest, but India seems not bad off because it was interacted with by a culture with technological advancements ahead of its own. Why should that be any different for the Galactic scale of culture interacting? On Earth, some societies advanced faster than others, but still interacted with the others and did not retard progress but instead helped spread progresses and advancements around the world. In the galaxy, some societies also advance faster than others. So why is it bad for them to also interact with others?

    And is there really any proper course for history? If an alien civilization interacts with another, and said civilization is more advanced, all it is really likely to do is hasten the advancement of a civilization, with those advancements continuing from there and the standing civilization continuing to develop things and advance. It's like if UFO's crashed on Earth; we wouldn't freeze all progress because of it; we'd reverse engineer it, and get centuries ahead, and then keep developing and innovating.

    It seems the bigger problems come more from geopolitical concerns rather than developmental ones; giving a leg up to a civilization which may go on conquering its neighbors or something. But even then, if that civilization is not going to do that, then there isn't need for concern. And you're not necessarily giving them anything, just going to interact with them.
     
  5. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    What if the Hitler was given ICBM and Nuclear weapon technology?

    The point of the PD seems to be we can't know how our actions will impact on the planet as a whole. Whilst we might have the best intentions at heart, things might not work out how we want them to.

    FTL travel seems to be the cut off for point for making contact. However the PD still applies in so much as we won't interfer in internal matters.
     
  6. Emperor Norton

    Emperor Norton Captain Captain

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    But again, you're not necessarily giving them anything. And even if you did, there's a good chance they won't know what to do to make more (how can Colonial Pennsylvania reverse engineer a Phaser?) or that they won't use it to a negative end, or that you'd be giving it to every power bloc on a world so it's balance of power.

    And the thing about not knowing consequences is that that is the case with everything in reality. And they have just as much likelihood of screwing themselves up without us as with us.

    EDIT:

    And the Prime Directive cut off date seems very arbitrary. Who's to say you won't mess them up after they have achieved Warp? Say a civilization is at 2060's level of development and invents warp. If Picard interacts with them, and offers them things, not even necessarily bringing them into the Federation, you've leaped them 400 years in development. Or if a 1950s level of development planet somehow gets warp, and everything else is at 50s levels except the warp, what then?

    The idea of a quarantine is problematic. Because ending that quarantine is complex, and its reasoning seems to bring to mind not interacting with and hiding yourself away from anyone even a micron behind you in development for fear of doing something that wouldn't happen if you had never existed.
     
  7. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    ^Well if you are talking about giving them technology, even though they are 200 years behind you technoloigcally speaking. Doesn't mean you can't give them technology closer to their level. Or were the plans for a 22nd century Phase Pistol lost despite the fact it's the 24th century.

    The Federation doesn't seem to be in the habit of usually just handing out the toys once a race achieves FTL.
     
  8. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I'd again like to point out that the PD apparently only applies to Starfleet, and places no restrictions on what UFP civilians can do. Unless said civilians outrageously violate assorted UFP laws to begin with, instead of just committing "interference".

    It's not a question of giving phasers to Hitler. It's a question of giving phasers to Kirk, who already commands the near-divine power of a starship, and should be discouraged from wielding that power without democratic oversight.

    The "cutoff date" idea for PD protection is urban myth anyway: PD concerns still tied the hands of Picard and Sisko when dealing with the fully warp-capable and interstellarly busily interacting cultures of Klingons and Bajorans, respectively. If PD appears to apply to primitive cultures more than to advanced ones, it's probably just because it's so much more difficult to be condescending towards one's factual superiors...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  9. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Of course the counterpoint to that is, what if Winston Churchill was given some ICBMs and Nuclear weapons around 1940? But not the technology to produce them. How many lives ultimately would have been saved?

    Interference is a two way street. Handing those weapons to Hitler would have been a failure of judgement, handing them to Churchill a correct evaluation of the situation, and a benefit to the receiving species over all. Admittedly tough on those Churchill would used the weapons on.

    In a episode of Stargate, in order to obtain the freedom of one of his people, Jack O'Neill gave a 9mm semi-automatic pistol to a primitive warlord. The warlord was last seen occasionally firing the weapon in the air to rally his troops. O'Neill gave the man no extra ammunition, nor the ability to make more.

    :)
     
  10. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    At some threshold level, more related to the general strength of culture and intellectualism than technological knowhow, the recipients would become capable of correctly judging what had been given to them. Hitler or Stalin for example could very quickly figure out the limitations of Churchill's putative arsenal, and possibly press on with fighting while accepting the loss of major cities - just like both had already done in face of more conventional destruction.

    (Also, giving the weapons to Churchill in 1940 might well have assured their ending up in Hitler's hands anyway, as the delivery would have given the German leader the impetus for pressing on with an invasion of the island kingdom. And just like all of his previous maneuvers, it would have been an operation extremely unlikely to succeed in theory, yet quite likely to succeed in practice, what with British land and sea defenses being a thin and somewhat damp paper tiger at the time.)

    Of course, TOS starship skippers could do just about anything they wanted, then observe the results, and then fly back in time to refine their course of action... No need for speculation and second-guessing. One wonders if this isn't what actually happened, a couple of times, and the results still were disastrous even after two or three iterations of good intentions - discouraging both this practice, and time travel in general?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. Julio Angel Ortiz

    Julio Angel Ortiz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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  12. Gagarin

    Gagarin Commander Red Shirt

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    The pre-warp thing is sort of how it is usually applied... but then it seems there's another part about not interfering with the development of other cultures (in general).

    With warp drive, I think a rationale is... if you make an interstellar starship, either 1.) you want to deal with other races or expect to find aliens, 2.) you want to exploit or use the resources of other worlds (colonize, mine, drill...), which means you're entering a larger community of people whether you want to or not.

    Starship captains and Starfleet shouldn't act like gods or undertake culture engineering. Although its funny as the UFP expands its space, there's probably hundreds of planets 'annexed' in without their knowledge. (They can petition to join, petition to be a protectorate, or remain independent later... but there won't be any new 'empires' being founded in the Alpha Quadrant.

    As far as prime directive with the Klingons and such, that seems like 24th century foreign policy reading of the Prime Directive.
     
  13. Xerxes1979

    Xerxes1979 Captain Captain

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    Absolutely.

    You get either anti-matter nuclear winter, Chicago gansters or Nazi planets.
     
  14. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    The job of the Federation is not to play interplanetary nanny and stop other cultures from making mistakes.
    What would have happened to humankind if the Vulcans had freely shared technology with them? Would the humans have solved their own problems or would they have relied on their Vulcan friends, helping them to leap over important stepping stones and thus skipping important lessons?

    Furthermore any benevolent involvement in a culture which differs very strongly from the Federation, e.g. the Klingons who do not value democracy and life but aristocracy and death, becomes a malevolent quasi act of war from the eyes of the messed-with culture.
    Interspecies ethics do not work like intraspecies ethics. Of course humans could try to play this game but it would make them aggressors. That's the main point of the Prime Directive, you may have good intentions when you violate it but the effects might be horrific. You cannot follow your intuition out there precisely because there are folks who are so very different than you out there. Hundreds of thousands of years of evolved human morality is totally inapt to deal with interspecies problems, that's why the Feds need a rule.
     
  15. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    Perhaps Hitler would have pressed on with his planned invasion of Britain but he would still have had to wait untill 1941 to try again. As he had failed to win air superiorty of Britain and the weather would play against him to try in the Autumn/winter months. Like with anything there is a lot of what ifs. It is very easy for us to look back with hindsight and say they should have done this and that.

    Being there at the time and witnessing events as they happened can make the decisionharder. Some of the prevalling wisdom at the time was that Britain and her allies (Canada/Australia etc..) and the free forces from the occupied countries would lose the war.